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Kearsarge ESG Offloads 26th MEU in Kuwait

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS050524-04
Release Date: 5/24/2005 9:06:00 AM

 

By Senior Chief Journalist (SW/AW) Dave Nagle, USS Kearsarge Public Affairs

NORTH PERSIAN GULF (NNS) -- The USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) Expeditionary Strike Group ESG) offloaded the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU)(Special Operations Capable) (SOC) at the Kuwait Naval Base May 15-17.

Kearsarge, USS Ashland (LSD 48) and USS Ponce (LPD 15), the amphibious ships assigned to the Kearsarge ESG, which is deployed in the region to conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO), offloaded the Marines and their equipment in support of training exercises in Kuwait.

Maritime Security Operations (MSO) set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment and complements the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. MSO denies international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons, or other material.

While in Kuwait, the 26 MEU (SOC) will conduct multiple coordinated fire exercises in cooperation with the Kuwati military, which are designed to maintain the high state of readiness of the unit and its Marines. The Marines will continue to receive logistic support throughout their time on range from the amphibious ships.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for our Marines to train with live rounds and coordinate combined fires just as they would in a combat situation,” said Capt. Edward Barfield, commander, Kearsarge ESG. “The use of this range should pay big dividends for our readiness.”

During the three-day offload, Kearsarge’s and Ashland’s well decks and flight decks were alive with activity, as Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) from Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 4 and helicopters from the 26 MEU (SOC) Air Combat Element moved both personnel and equipment ashore. Landing Craft Utility (LCU) moved Marines and equipment ashore from Ponce.

Combat Cargo departments on each of the ships, which orchestrate the movement of personnel, cargo and equipment from ship to shore, conduct a lot of advance planning to ensure the offload goes smoothly and efficiently.

Kearsarge’s Combat Cargo department began planning two weeks in advance with the MEU to coordinate the movement of approximately 875 passengers, 125 vehicles and 210 pallets of cargo from Kearsarge to shore.

“Once the MEU develops a landing plan to identify the order in which they need their equipment, passengers and cargo, we then determine the ship-to-shore distance and the beach facilities to support the LCACs and helicopters,” said Marine Master Sgt. Kerry Dunlap, Kearsarge’s combat cargo assistant. “That gives us the time it takes to move each load and allows us to construct a timetable for the offload.”

Once the offload begins, Combat Cargo must track the movement of personnel and equipment to ensure full accountability and adjust to any challenges that could impact the offload, such as adverse weather.

“There’s a lot of teamwork involved in an evolution of this magnitude,” added Dunlap. “Combat Cargo is integrated with the Deck and Air departments to ensure a smooth offload.”

LCAC crews commented that the advance planning and coordination paid off.

“This offload was one of the most efficient that I have seen in seven years in the LCAC program,” said Chief Operations Specialist (SW) Robert Drury, an ACU 4 LCAC craftmaster. “I carried eight loads the first day from the Ashland - the most I have ever carried in a single day. One of the reasons it went so quickly was because the Combat Cargo teams did an excellent job of having our loads ready each time we arrived in the well deck.“

According to Kearsarge’s Commanding Officer Capt. Luke Parent, coordination and teamwork were the two key elements in the success of the offload.

”Our fundamental mission is to deliver Marines and their equipment anywhere, anytime,” said Parent. “We executed that mission safely and efficiently, due in large part to the outstanding teamwork and coordination not just between the Blue and Green teams, but also among the various departments on the ship, such as the Air and Deck departments. Once again, Team Kearsarge performed superbly.”

The Kearsarge Expeditionary Strike Group deployed from Norfolk, Va., with the 26th MEU (SOC) primarily based in Cherry Point, N.C., March 25.




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